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Trip Planner

Book faster with easier decision-making process, enhanced by logic-based recommendations.

Product design

Web app

Interested in our process stories? Check out our Medium blogs.

Overview

It often involves complex planning to ensure a dream getaway. Our interactive Trip Planner helps guests to book right things easily beforehand for the best possible experience onsite.

Project info

Client: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Team of 5 | Jan - Aug 2019
My role: Product designer, researcher

My contribution
  • Uncovered insights to inform design decisions.

  • Led ideation sessions and defined the concept.

  • Executed design from scratch to high-fi.

  • Implemented key interactions with tech lead.

  • Visualized research insights and presented to client.

The challenge

Recapture the Nemacolin magic

Nestled on 2,000 acres in Pennsylvania, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is a Forbes Five-Star resort with 4 hotels, 15 dining options, and more than 70 unique activities, which brought in most of the revenue. However, guests were not enjoying their stay to the full extend, which negatively affected resort's revenue.

Nemacolin's unique value comes from the rich amount of activities and dining options onsite

During research, I identified a paradox:

The best possible stay depends on whether guests book the right activities and restaurants in time before arrival, however, guests often give up on exploring and booking because the experience is complex and overwhelming.

Our research shows that the guests are still aware of the unique value that the resort could offer. Only 50% of guests make dining and activity reservations prior to arrival, which makes them miss their first-choice.

We thus reframed the initial challenge, which was how to improve onsite guest experience as: how might we help guests make the right booking decisions beforehand effortlessly?

Product overview

To solve the problem for both guests and Nemacolin, we present Trip Planner, a logic-based web app that helps guests plan their getaway in four easy steps. It recommends relevant stay, activity, dining options , and even editable itineraries to the guest based on their preferences. Trip planner solves the conflict between a dream getaway and tedious planning by making recommendations.

Feature1 Quiz to recommendations

Get to know about guest and take care of the rest

Going through the research-informed dynamic quiz, guests will receive recommendations for the most suitable rooms, activities and dining options. The quiz is powered by machine learning models that can evolve in the future.

Feature 2 recommended Itinerary

Structure balanced with flexibility

Trip Planner continues engaging guests by generating a well-planned personalized itinerary, taking into accounts of availability and promotions. Guests have the freedom to start from scratch.

Feature 3 in-time recommendations

Eliminate the slips on edge use case

If a guest only attempt to book a room, the Trip Planner recommends dining options for he/she to book with room, which does not require any fees, right before checking out. This ensures guests have dining reservations.

Utilizing data

Data as the driven-force for better service

Trip Planner is able to collect valuable guest data for Nemacolin, who can use data to analyze guests behaviors and predict their preference, which is the core of a premium resort service.

--> Read the full Design Memo--> Read the full Tech Memo
Play with full flow prototypePlay with dynamic recommender

Our solution is successful (tested with 25 participants in target group):

92%

of participants were highly likely to book reservations prior to arrival

42%

of participants strongly agree they would book earlier than usual

Quant & Quali Analysis

Finding patterns of prospective guests' decision-making behaviors on which resort to visit and what to do there.

Generative Research

Pre-arrival journey is seldom supported, but is game-changing.

The discovery

Guests’ failure to book ahead results in a disappointing and frustrating experience during their stay.

Breakdowns of current booking experience

1.
Overwhelming information makes decision hard to make.

2.
The current booking service can't help with activities and dining.

    1. Overwhelming information makes decision hard to make.

    Guests give up on exploring the unique value of Nemacolin because of overwhelming information online. Also, due to separate database Nemacolin has, guests have to jump across different sites to book different things, which is very confusing.

    Part of sites and apps guests need to go through in order to make decisions

    2. The current booking service can't help.

    Currently, guests have to call the resort to book activities and dining options. However, reservation specialists are not familiar with activity information either. Guests feel reluctant to close the deal over phone, because more research is often needed to make the final decision.

    Right: the working environment of reservation specialist

    Conceptual Design

    The idea of a full Trip Planner stood out due to its ability to fulfill needs of both users and Nemacolin.

    Concept exploration

    How might we...?

    Reframed challenge

    How might we help guests make the right booking decisions beforehand effortlessly?

    (Initial prompt from the client: improve the onsite guest experience)

    I kicked-off the ideation phase by breaking the reframed challenge down and asked three questions to inform design strategy:

    1. How to know what's right for every guests?

    2. How to help guests close the deal without information-overload?

    3. How to make our solution easy to use and access to?

    Our final solution in a glance:

    The final flow (simple ver.)

    How information is streamlined

    Product design decisions

    1.
    All in one place

    We found that although guests welcomed the concept of recommendations, they want the "what's next", that's why we added itinerary.

    2.
    Low barrier of entry

    I advocated to have our solution as a web tool that is an extension to Nemacolin's current website because it will give the lowest barrier of entry to all users.

    3.
    Mobile-first

    Google Analytics data shows that 53% of Nemacolin's organic search traffic comes from mobile devices, which means optimizing mobile experience should be the priority.

    Here's a little look of our brainstorming and narrowing process. I led the ideation phase.

    Prioritization chart and Speed-dating

    Crazy 8s and Reverse assumptions

    Iterations

    Our team went through 5 iterations and tested with 25 participants that are within our target group. I also led 3 additional design sprints to polish the UI.

    Design principles

    I summarized all the design decisions along the way, in collaboration with PM, into 10 design principles to demonstrate the intentionality we gave to the UX and inform our client for their future success in improving other digital properties.

    Design hightlights

    1.
    A smart quiz that knows the minimum questions to ask and caters different use cases

    --> Using the personas, we optimized the logic tree of variables. Click here to view it.

    2.
    Curating information along guest journey to assist decision making

    3.
    Leveraging shopping cart metaphor to enhance cognitive understanding

    4.
    Visual and Branding

    1. A smart quiz that knows the minimum questions to ask and caters different use cases

    The final flow of Quiz section

    The first step towards a smart quiz was to uncover the pattern of guests' behaviors in booking, and pull out variables. In additional to machine learning analysis , me and research lead identified four types of guests within our target group, and found that:

    Guests' purpose of the trip determines what they value the most.

    Different guest has different purpose.

    Based on the purposes, their value of a dream getaway varies.

    Click to view detailed personas

    Instead of translating all the variables into a long list of questions, we optimized the quiz section by pulling out the primary variables that can determine other variables, and hide these secondary variables to the back-end.

    Iterated flow

    Second iteration of quiz questions

    Different routes

    Early iteration of the quiz section.
    Options came from qualitative research on guest's impression over their stay at Nemacolin.

    2. Curated information to assist decision making

    "The subway rider should be given only information at the point of decision. Never before. Never after" – Massimo Vignelli

    During iterations, I realized that merely presenting the results are not enough to lead guests to close the deal in time. Information should be mapped to their journey of booking.

    So first, I crafted the journey maps with research lead.

    One of the four guest journey map of booking

    --> View the interactive version of journey maps.

    I led the prototyping from scenarios to the final high-fi versions. Me, research lead, and one of the PMs together pushed the design forward.

    I proposed to use card sorting to identify guests' mental model on trip planning, and the information associated to each step.

    Some guests are not interested in activities, however dining is necessary onsite. Thus, when a guest jumps from selecting a room right to booking, Trip Planner recommends dining reservations based on the room selected.

    After rounds of rounds iterations, discussions, critiques, and testings, we arrived at our final design. Here's the overall information architecture.

    3. Visual & Branding

    I led a full day of design sprints and critiques to polish the UI and branding with PM and research lead.

    A little look of the process

    Result

    My design succeeded in KPI testing.

    We used in-person testing and UserTesting.com to validate our final design.

    My reflection.

    Working with data as a designer

    This is the longest agile project I've been working on. It has been an incredibly valuable learning experience for me. The biggest thing I learned was to work with data and use it as a design material. By that I mean starting by asking questions, and collaborating with researchers and developers to collect data, manipulate data, and distill insights. Participating in the research phase is very important for a vision to be formed. After that, as a designer, the journey just started. Although data can provide valuable insights, muddling through the design phase is inevitable.

    Working with a diverse team, and leading design

    Working with awesome teammates was also a memorable highlight of my grad school. We hang out a lot outside of work - going to gym, sharing recipes, having milk-shake Mondays, having dance break after long meetings, talking about different cultures, and more.
    Taking care of teammates during design workshops is very important to have everyone actively contribute.

    Balancing between user's needs and business value

    Finding a sweet spot is always hard, however, locating the overlapping area between user and business value is a challenge every product designer has to face. My biggest takeaway was that I self-discovered my way, as a designer, to muddle through this process. I still put user's needs as a prioritization, then rank them. After that, scope down with business value. This method turned out well in this project.

    Our team, with advisors and clients after final presentation

    Other projects: 
    AoaolaBuscottySIO RedesignMiaOffice ShotsJourney(Comming soon)